British-Iranian prisoner of conscience Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces fresh criminal proceedings
‘The new criminal proceedings against Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe are as baseless as the original ones’ – Kerry Moscogiuri
Responding to news from Richard Ratcliffe that his wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – a British-Iranian charity worker who has been unjustly jailed in Iran for the past year-and-a-half – may be facing additional criminal charges and a further prison sentence, Amnesty International UK’s Campaigns Director, Kerry Moscogiuri, said:
“Coming against a backdrop of last year’s blatantly unfair trial and sentence, this is very depressing news and a really worrying development.
“The new criminal proceedings against Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe are as baseless as the original ones, and once again criminalise this charity worker’s peaceful exercise of her rights to freedom of expression and association through her work with Reuters and the BBC.
“The Iranian authorities have a track record of bringing fresh criminal charges against prisoners of conscience who they wish to keep in jail.
“Instead of flagrantly abusing the criminal justice system to prolong her unjust imprisonment,
the Iranian authorities should release Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and immediately and unconditionally allow her to come back to Britain with her daughter.
“The UK Government should now break its silence on the case and publicly call for Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s immediate release.”
Unfair trial after solitary confinement
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, a British-Iranian dual-national, was arrested at Tehran airport on 3 April 2016 prior to boarding a plane back to the UK after a regular family visit to the country with her infant daughter Gabriella. After being detained for over five months, initially in solitary confinement for 45 days without access to a lawyer, Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison in September 2016 after being convicted of “membership of an illegal group” in a grossly unfair trial by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran. The conviction was in connection with her employment at Thomson Reuters Foundation, a charity organisation, as well as her past work as an administrative assistant on a BBC Media Action project to train young journalists. The sentence was upheld on appeal earlier this year and her subsequent request for judicial review was denied.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe is currently held in Tehran’s Evin Prison, where prisoners endure poor conditions. She is suffering from numerous health problems – including severe arm, neck and back pain. There have also been serious concerns over her mental state. Amnesty has designated her a prisoner of conscience who has been targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of her rights to freedom of expression and association, and has called on the Iranian authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally.
UK government yet to call for her release
Prime Minister Theresa May (and her predecessor David Cameron) have said they have raised both Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case and that of fellow UK-Iranian dual-national Kamal Foroughi, a 78-year-old businessman sentenced to seven years after being convicted of “espionage” in 2013. Under Iran’s own laws, Foroughi has been eligible for release for several years, but he continues to be held without an official explanation. While the UK Government has formally called for Foroughi’s release on humanitarian grounds, it has yet to publicly call for the release of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.